Thursday, November 12, 2015

Film Review: Wolf Warrior (2015)

Wolf Warrior (Review)
China/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

" As an action film, Wolf Warriors is a more serviceable movie."

After showing initiative during a tense showdown, expert marksman Leng Feng (Wu Jing) joins the "special forces of the special forces," but soon finds himself confronting the actions of his past...

Let's just get to the basics. Wolf Warrior follows Leng Feng when he's recruited by Long Xiaoyun (Yu Nan) to join a special forces group she commands — The Wolf Warriors. During a training mission, the group are assaulted by a team of foreign mercenaries led by Tom Cat (Scott Adkins). Tom Cat is hired by a drug lord to kill Leng Feng. So, the PLA (more like Leng Feng by his lonesome) and these mercenaries go to war in these barren woods. For the most part, the plot felt very thin and a little disjointed. It gets a little more consistent during the final act, but the ending was very predictable.

It's easy to see why many consider Wolf Warriors a propaganda film. I personally don't mind propaganda in a film, I even expect it in a Chinese film, but I do appreciate some subtlety — this film is severely lacking in that department. From beginning to end, the plot let's you know one thing: "We're Chinese and we're better than you." Maybe not so blunt, but it is overwhelmingly patriotic. In turn, you get a very dull and disjointed plot. Instead of crafting character and suspense, the film focuses on making Leng Feng as cool, edgy, and talented as physically (im)possible. It has these attempts at creating conflict and character, but they're so superficial, it really hurts. The whole love and family subplots felt tacked-on like an afterthought to create fabricated emotion. The film practically ends with a line that sounds like it's from a military commercial!

So, the plot is mostly useless. As an action film, Wolf Warriors is a more serviceable movie. The first half of the film has a few decent action moments, but most are duds. A fight with CG wolves immediately comes to mind as mediocre. The second half of the film gets a little better. There are plenty of shootouts, explosions, and a few fist-fights. They don't standout as exemplary for the genre, but they certainly inject some entertainment into the film. I did feel the final fight was a little underwhelming, though. I'm not sure if it had something to do with the whole propaganda aspect of the film, but it felt like Scott Adkins' skills were underutilized.

The acting was okay. Wu Jing is very nimble, but lacking in charisma. He also sweats like someone who forgot to clear his search history. (Queue: Key & Peele clip.) Maybe it was her character, but Yu Nan was very dull — you could probably replace her with a cardboard cutout of herself and receive the same depth. I wasn't a big fan of his accent, but Scott Adkins was at least decent. The film looks and sounds decent, too — the cinematography and music failed to stand out. The editing was overdone during some scenes, though. There's one scene where the film cuts to a different angle every second, it can be jarring. The film is directed by our action star, Wu Jing, and probably written by the Chinese government. The story is a mess due to its lack of subtlety. The direction is also weak at times, but Jing eventually finds a decent flow.

Overall, Wolf Warriors is a mediocre action film. The plot is dull, the characters are boring and practically nonexistent, and the action doesn't ramp up until the end. Highlight features, like Scott Adkins, are also underutilized. On top of that, the film is coated by overwhelming patriotism without a pinch of subtlety. To be perfectly honest, I probably would have shrugged off these patriotic elements if the rest of the film were great, but it's not. The film has some decent scenes and it's not the worst time-killer, though. It's difficult to recommend anything more than a Netflix stream for action film fans.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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